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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 4, 202005:00 AM EST

Here’s an idea: Let’s not go back to ‘normal’

The challenges we’ve faced can make us better. Let’s focus on what really matters.

By Shannon Schott, Young Lawyers Section board member and Solo Practitioner and Small Firm Committee co-chair

Shannon Schott

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s what really matters.

The distraction has been stripped away and we’re clearly able to see that the health and wellness of the people we love and ourselves is all that matters.

To protect what matters most, the practice of law suddenly evolved for the better.

The pandemic brought a level of efficiency to the judiciary not previously seen. While we begrudgingly transitioned to the virtual practice of law, the practice jumped light years ahead from where it was while protecting the people who keep the wheels of justice turning.

Suddenly, we don’t need fancy offices or conference rooms, we don’t even need our staff to be in the office to do good work, and we certainly don’t need 800,000 square feet of courtrooms. 

Virtual court is a service to our clients, ourselves, the judiciary and the community. By holding virtual court we are able to more quickly conduct our court proceedings.

Gone are the days of a judge waiting for an attorney or party to physically appear. Gone are the days of not being able to be in two courtrooms at once. We have achieved court access for all because people who previously were limited physically or financially to attend court can “appear” by simply making a telephone call. 

Parents are now able to “bring” their children to work and it’s acceptable. We are more gracious and understanding to parents and parents have grown to love the mute button. 

Previously, few of us achieved work/life balance because of how overscheduled we are. But now, lawyers have time to do the work and exercise, enjoy recreational activities or develop hobbies. One young lawyer grew an eggplant.

COVID-19 also is a wake-up call. I realized it’s not the work that keeps me away from my family, my friends or the gym. It’s the hours of work done for a client who I didn’t really want to represent but thought the firm needed the business. It’s the unnecessary commute to a meeting that could have been a Zoom conference, the hurry up and wait for court and conferences that could have been a call and the many meetings and happy hours that I really didn’t have to attend.

It was me failing to prioritize. 

So, while we have the time, we should consider what isn’t a priority in our lives and whether we should prioritize those things again.

Nightmare clients? Stressful working environments? Voluntary obligations that bring you no joy? Travel and meetings that could be handled in a conference call or video chat? 

I know we’re eager to get back to the practice of law and “get back to normal,” but here’s my suggestion: Don’t.

Fire the client. Quit the job. Pay for the Zoom account. Minimize your commute. Don’t go back to a life where your priorities are not prioritized. Don’t go back to “normal.”

Normal did not encourage us to foster good relationships with our families and friends. Normal did not address raising children or growing eggplants. Normal did not force us to be innovative and efficient. Normal didn’t allow us to have true work/life balance.  

Let’s focus on what really matters. Let’s embrace this new practice of law, be more efficient and do more virtually so that we can live a more fulfilled and balanced life out of the office. 

Shannon Schott is a partner at Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law.

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